You Have To Pick One

It’s just not possible to choose both — not entirely, anyway. If you’re taking things like God’s existence or miracles or the efficacy of prayer on faith alone, then you’re compromising your intellectual integrity. Religious people love to tell you otherwise (“I’m religious because I’m intelligent!”) but it’s all rhetoric with no substance. If you want to be religious, it requires giving up some degree of critical thought. They won’t admit that, but I don’t see any way around it.

(via nakedpastor)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Dats3

    My mother often says things like, “You’re very intelligent. It doesn’t make sense that you would choose not to believe.”  For me it’s not a choice.  I can’t believe because I can’t reason faith in god.  For me it doesn’t follow any kind of logic.  Further, I can’t believe just because someone tells me I should or because if i don’t I’m going to hell. As one person put it to me, “You need to learn to accept the mystery.” BS!  No reason, no logic, no evidence equals no belief. There is no choice as far as I’m concerned.

    • allein

      Agreed. As Ricky Gervais put it, “You can’t believe something you don’t.”

    • Anna

      It’s the same for me. There’s no way that I could choose to believe in gods. Ever since I first heard of them, it seemed obvious that they were imaginary.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    “Clearly people who want to believe that God can intervene to help them or alter the world at some point have to invoke nonscientific thinking. Even if science doesn’t necessarily tell us why things happen, we do know how things move and interact. If God has no physical influence, things won’t move. Even our thoughts, which ultimately rely on electrical signals moving in our brains, won’t be affected.”

    “If such external influences are intrinsic to religion, then logic and scientific thought dictate that there must be a mechanism by which this influence is transmitted. A religious or spiritual belief that involves an invisible undetectable force that nonetheless influences human actions and behavior or that of the world itself produces a situation in which a believer has no choice but to have faith and abandon logic–or simply not care.”

    - Lisa Randall (Harvard physicist, quoted from her book Knocking on Heaven’s Door)

    • Blacksheep

      However it’s amazing that so called illogical thinking in areas of faith can so enhance the logical side of things, perhaps by uplifting the spirit to a place of greater peace, confidence, and mantal clarity.

      (However I fully know it can have tho exact opposite effect)

      • Blacksheep

        (Sorry “mental” clarity – guess I don’t have it right now!)

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

    You can keep your intellectual integrity as a theist, you just have to be very careful not to be too inquisitive. Lol doesn’t last long.
    The funny thing with that is that you can’t even be too inquisitive about your own beliefs. It’s easy enough as a Christian to avoid reading books by atheists or evolutionists, but I was constantly reading Answers magazine, the Bible, and “The Case for Christ” type books. I was so eager to find more things to prove myself right and allow me to have intelligent arguments with other people. I was getting so frustrated because I already knew that I believed the right thing, I was just shocked to see that none of these people were able to prove it, even to someone who already agreed with them.

    • Blacksheep

      One can be 100% inquisitive and never lose faith. What Jesus said and did (according to the Bible) stand on their own apart from science. Just because you can’t prove something doesn’t make it false. Unknowable perhaps, but not false. Life is too short for me not follow my mind and heart, to embrace science and the teachings of Christ.

      • C Peterson

        One can be 100% inquisitive and never lose faith.

        Very true. It isn’t enough to simply ask questions- one needs to be intelligent and analytical enough to accept the answers to those questions. That’s when people recognize the absurdity of faith and replace it with reason.

        • Blacksheep

          I came to a different conclusion.

          • C Peterson

            I’ll assume you are intelligent, but simply failed to operate rationally. It is doubtful that one can rationally decide on theism (and certain that one cannot rationally decide on any religion based on the Bible).

      • luke smith

         So by that logic pixies, unicorns and leprechauns are real. Life is too short to suppress people using an iron-age book. Religious texts never give reasons for faith (it tells you NOT to be inquisitive as you are supposed to believe without seeing), they just quote bible verses and pat themselves on the back about how wonderful Jesus is. They studiously ignore all the less pleasant bits in the old/new testament or shrug and say God is mysterious and can’t be held accountable. God makes sense, even when he doesn’t. Crackers! Hard to believe I used to think this way.

        • Randy Gritter

          It is hard to believe you used to think that way. Religious texts do give reasons. Just the reasons are about God. They do not tell you not to be inquisitive. At least the bible does not say that. There are issues of interpretation. You do need to know which verses are central and which describe ways God no longer works. That is why you need the church and not just the bible.

        • Blacksheep

          The Bible is not supposed to be supressing anyone, if you used to think this way you recall some of the teachings  of Christ. 

          I disagree that the Bible tells you not to be inquisitive:”For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge…”2 Peter 1:5″Test everything. Hold on to the good.” 1 Thessalonians 5:21″I directed my mind to know, to investigate, and to seek wisdom and an explanation…”  Ecclesiastes 7:25

          • Deven Kale

            You’re right in that the bible doesn’t suppress anyone. Because it’s a book, and books can’t do anything but be read and hold up table legs, etc. That’s not what Luke said though, he said that people use the iron-age book to suppress people, based on the things that are written in it.

            You’re ignoring the teaching of Christ which says that he wasn’t there to end the levitical law, not one jot or tittle, until all is fulfilled. Considering the fact that you are still waiting for “the end times” written in revelations, I don’t think all is fulfilled. Peter and his disciples simply made up the idea that Jesus fulfilled “the law” through his crucifixion in order to attract more followers and gain power. Then again, I supposed that’s assuming that any of that happened at all.

            • Blacksheep

              “It is finished”

              • Deven Kale

                 Mind pointing out where that is so I/we can read it in context?

                • Blacksheep

                  Not at my desk – sorry – Christ’s last word on the cross.

          • Brian Macker

            “Supposed to” according to whom? It is clearly suppressive so it doesn’t matter what the intent was. For example the story of Doubting Thomas suppresses those who are prone to ask intelligent questions, like me when I was 7 years old.

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

        The story of Jesus doesn’t stand on it’s own. It’s got tons of contradictions, the gospels were written anywhere between 30 and 70 years after Jesus’ death, and even if there were no problems with it, I have no reason to believe it’s anything more than a story.
        I know that not knowing doesn’t make something false. But what about when you find out things that would contradict your strongly held beliefs? Or is that when you say, “I don’t know how both of these contradictory things could be correct, so I’ll just have faith that my faith is more important than truth.” ?

        • Blacksheep

          Totally appreciate that. What I meant is that the gospel of forgiveness and salvation has little to do with science.

          I haven’t encountered any contradictions that don’t make sense to me when I look into them to the degree it takes my faith away.

          “Jesus loves me” pretty much stands on its own for me. 

      • Deven Kale

        “That which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”
        -Richard Dawkins

        • Robster

          Wasn’t it Christopher Hitchens?

          • Deven Kale

             I don’t know. I Googled it to find out for sure and it seems that both of them are credited for it. I can’t find a definitive source on who first said it anywhere.

  • Evertoniancalvinist

    Nonsense. God is the very foundation for intelligent thought. Intelligent thought must comport with truth, be logically coherent and be reasoned and rational. I admit that these are all things atheist do, and do them better than Christians sometimes. But here is your problem: you guys can’t account for your intelligent thought. One characteristic of intelligent thought is that it produces truth. But what is truth in an atheistic universe? What absolute laws of logic do you appeal to when you are thinking? Remember…absolutes have no room in your worlview…. yet you use them. My point is that the very characteristics that make up intelligent thought presuppose an intelligent being created the universe. Make sense?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-De-Fleuriot/611844223 Mike De Fleuriot

      No, it does not. But one thing you still have to do, IF you are correct, is show that your Allah is the correct god. And I do not see how you are going to do that with, what where your words, logically coherent, reasoned and rational thought?

      Go ahead and give it a shot, we will wait.

      Coffee anyone?

    • TiltedHorizon

      “What absolute laws of logic do you appeal to when you are thinking?”

      Please evidence the existence of these “absolute laws”.

      • Evertoniancalvinist

        Titled, You want to produce evidence for one of these Absolutes laws that make intelligent thought coherent, right? I’ll do better than that. I’ll have you prove it for us. Here it is….. Does my evidence that I give you for Absolutes have to be delivered in a logical argument that adheres to the laws of logic? Or can my answer be illlogical and a bunch of nonsense gibberish ? If it needs to logical, then you are appealing to the absolute laws of logic. If it could be illogical then your worldview is reduced to absurdity. So tell me fella, what kind of evidence do you want, logical or illogical?

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Well seeing as the only answers you’re giving us are nonsense gibberish, I guess that’s what we’re going to have to settle with, huh?

        • TiltedHorizon

          You will have to use an example which is not subjective in nature, it is after all, an “absolute”.

          Case in point, I have walked away from faith using my subjective logic, and you have kept yours using the same subjective logic. The fact that you consider my conclusions incorrect means my logic is illogical to you and yours is illogical to me. Additionally, logic is developed, meaning any logic and conclusions drawn from it ‘seems’ correct at that point in time and is subject to change when new information is presented. I am sure if you look at your own life you can find many examples of doing something which “seemed like a good idea at the time”.

          The point that I am making is any claim of “absolute” cannot be subjective, in this case “logical or illogical” is subjective to the beholder. Which means I still need an example of an “Absolute Law”.

        • Brian Westley

          Sorry, your rantings don’t show that these laws are “absolute” nor that any god exists.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          This whole absolute standard of logic is getting annoying. There is nothing magical about logic. You might as well be claiming that 2 + 2 = 4 is proof of the existence of God.
          I believe that there are fish in the ocean. I know that through logical processes, I can prove this. I know it would be illogical to find fish in rivers and prove that they’re in the ocean. I know that it would also be illogical to scoop water out of the ocean, see no fish, and assume that fish aren’t in the ocean. There’s nothing magical about it. It’s just the way we figure things out, and there are certainly some ways that work better than others.

          You’re argument is basically: Absolute logic exists, therefore God exists. And every time we try to point out the flaws with that, you point out that we’re using logic and therefore proving God exists. You do realize that’s impossible to argue with, right? And not because it’s correct, but because it is the most idiotic reasoning possible.
          If anything, you’re proving to us right now that if God did bestow logic upon humans, he can’t have done a very good job. You’d think he’d give his followers some sort of advantage with it, wouldn’t you?

          Personally, I believe that we were given the gift of logic by a herd of magical unicorns. Prove me wrong. Without logic though, because if you use logic, you’ll be proving me right. How could you have the logic if you didn’t get it from the unicorns?

        • Gus Snarp

          The laws of logic and logical arguments were devised by people based on how well they enable us to communicate and to understand the world around us. But I don’t see why you’d want to start using them now, since you’ve got no case within them, you might as well continue to operate outside them.

          Also, evidence is something that we need to base our logical arguments upon, logic does not generate the evidence. The evidence exists, logic be damned. If you have some evidence, provide it.

        • Coyotenose

           Math =/= God. Please try again.

        • Deven Kale

           If it needs to be logical, nobody’s appealing to any absolute laws of logic, they’re appealing to the man-made rules of logic we’ve been using for centuries in order to ensure that thought processes make any sense.

          Now please, you say there are laws of logic which we are appealing to. If you would state what you believe those laws to be, we will be able to apply these man-made rules of logic to your argument in order to find out if it’s true. If it is, then I would be highly surprised. Since you haven’t even made an attempt yet though, I have a hard time believing even you know what these laws are supposed to be, in which case you shouldn’t even be referencing them.

    • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

      This is question begging. You are assuming that intelligence necessarily needs an intelligent source, which we know is not true as evolution is a well evidenced alternative.
      Reason would suggest that a primary intelligence is itself in need of greater explanation than our own.
      That the universe we inhabit is capable of supporting concious intelligent life is obviously true and some foundational logic may underpin that, it’s hard to imagine otherwise, but that need not be contingent on creator gods.

      • Graham Martin-Royle

        This is presup. It’s what Sye does. You won’t get any sense or proof that a god exists, just meaningless statements. And even if this nonsense were true, it doesn’t prove any particular god.

    • Patterrssonn

      The Universe is absolutely as it is, and that’s the absolute truth. Don’t know why you need to add a god.

      • Blacksheep

        We’re not adding a God – he has been in our thoughts, writings, and oral traditions since the beginning. Atheism is taking away the concept of a God.

        • Patterrssonn

          The concept of magical creatures has certainly been around for a long time. The idea of a single omnipotent god however is fairly recent. It certainly doesn’t predate writing. It doesn’t even predate the Old Testament. Yahweh was simply the most powerful god in the pantheon.

          Eventually we drop the concept of god as originator of the universe, just as we dropped the concept of magic as the force behind everyday reality. Atheism doesn’t take away the concept of god so much as simply loses it somewhere between the couch cushions, just like you lose belief in Santa Claus.

          • Anna

            I can’t get over theists who somehow seem to believe that their god is the only one that counts, the one that has been around since the beginning. I mean, there’s actual historical evidence of ancient religions that ev0lved in other parts of the world, and those people didn’t worship Blacksheep’s god. They’d never even heard of Blacksheep’s god. They invented their own gods and goddesses to worship. Some of them didn’t have gods or goddesses at all. They had (and still have) other supernatural belief systems entirely.

            • Patterrssonn

              It’s interesting too how god evolves to reflect our understanding of reality. How the god of a flat domed earth who inhabited a physical place above the dome came to exist outside reality once we were able to look beyond the ‘dome’ and see he wasn’t there.

            • Blacksheep

              I never said MY God, I said the concept of a God has been around since the beginning.

              • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                “he has been in our thoughts, writings, and oral traditions since the beginning”That sounds like you’re talking about your god.
                But to make it easier for others to understand, if you’re talking about your god, you capitalize it. If you’re talking about the concept of a god, it’s uncapitalized. That would help a lot.

        • Coyotenose

           Atheism is the ground state. You have a very weird personal definition of it.

          • Blacksheep

            I disagree – I think atheism is an acquired state and is one way to look at the universe. I don’t know of a native people that has a tradition of no god / gods whatsoever – I believe that belief in a deity is the ground state.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Atheists believe that things are the way they are without anything added to them. That’s the ground state. Any belief in a deity is something that is added on to their belief in the existence of the world.
              The very fact that it’s something that can’t be proved is proof that it’s an add on, as well as the fact that there are so many different variations of supernatural beliefs.

              And there you go. Atheists believe in the natural, theists believe in the natural + the supernatural.

        • The Other Weirdo

           Technically speaking, that’s not true. Those before us, our ancestors, thousands of years ago, added a God or Gods, depending on the locale and the period. They did it because they didn’t know any better. Literally. We know better now and that’s why we don’t use God as an explanation for weather or celestial phenomena or earthquakes or plagues. God has been relegated to things we can’t explain at the moment. Why does the universe exist? Why does it exist the way that it exists? When did it start? When will it end? “There is no meaning to our lives unless God gives us one.” That sort of thing.

          God is becoming so amorphous that it’s becoming impossible to define what is and is not God.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=705066677 Desiree Bell-Fowlks

        I always considered god(s) as the unnecessary seasoning on reality.  The universe and everything in it is amazing enough without having to make things up.

    • Gus Snarp

      No, it does not make sense. Your premises are unfounded and your conclusions do not follow from them.

    • RobMcCune

      My point is that the very characteristics that make up intelligent thought presuppose an intelligent being created the universe. Make sense?

      No, there is no reason you have given to demonstrate this. You simply declare it impossible and then claim God is the answer. Like this:

      What absolute laws of logic do you appeal to when you are thinking? Remember…absolutes have no room in your worlview…. yet you use them.

      Care to back that up, and while your at it, show that absolutes being absolute because God decreed them are not arbitrary. The laws of logic are what they are, no one decree them, nothing made them.

      One characteristic of intelligent thought is that it produces truth. But what is truth in an atheistic universe?

      Truth is statements that correspond to reality.

    • Sunny Day

      Word salad like yours never make sense.

    • Deven Kale

       This fits here as well, so I’m going to post it again:
      Logic is a man-made tool with man-made rules used to help us
      understand whether a particular position makes sense. It’s a method of
      understanding thought processes, much like science (also man-made) is a
      method used for understanding the universe. Like the scientific method,
      the rules of logic have been perfected over centuries by consensus of
      numerous different experts. We know our logic is valid by presenting our
      conclusions (and sometimes logical processes) to others to see if they
      see any fallacies in them. If enough people see there are no fallacies,
      and none see that there are, that consensus is enough to assume that our
      logic is sound.

      Does that account for your “law of logic” well enough?

      • Evertoniancalvinist

        Hi Deven.. Good reply. thank you.  Just a quick question: Before there were minds on earth to use logic as a “man made tool”……. long before man existed, could have the universe have existed and not existed at the same time and in the same way?  Thanks Dev

        • Deven Kale

          Your question is poorly defined. Either something exists, or it doesn’t. You can’t have both. The Universe exists now, which means there’s no reason to think there was a point where it never existed. Not even Big Bang theory claims to say there was nothing before it, although I don’t understand big bang theory enough to say what it does posit beyond that. Not to mention all the other theories there are (M theory, multiverse theory, bubble universe theory, etc. Some of which I have trouble believing are theories at all) which I know almost nothing about.

          So I guess to answer your question I would have to say, ask a cosmologist, not an atheist.

          • Evertoniancalvinist

            You missed the point.  My question was not one that had to do with orgins of the universe or cosmology.  My point was that  the laws of logic existed before there were human minds. 

            There is hope and life in Jesus.  Good night Deven  

            • Deven Kale

              Oh. Well considering the fact that mankind created the rules of logic, of course the rules of logic didn’t exist before we created them. What kind of nonsense question is that?

              Consider you come up with a new rule in your home. Was that a rule in your house before you made it one? Your question is essentially the same, but with a larger house.

              And dude, next time use your English better. There’s no way to get the question you thought you’d asked from that mess.

              QFT:

              Before there were minds on earth to use logic as a “man made
              tool”……. long before man existed, could have the universe have
              existed and not existed at the same time and in the same way?

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Absolutely. The laws of logic existed far before humans in the herd of the unicorns that has given life to us all. To use logic and at the same time deny the existence of The Herd is so clearly inconsistent. These people must be blind.

              May magical nights shine upon you Calvin.

            • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

              I think you are confusing logic, the human invention that enables us to reach a concensus understanding of the universe, with the fact that the universe is able to be described logically.
              Arguably a universe that could not be so described would be unlikely to produce concious life forms that employed logic (and maybe no life at all actually).
              At a basic level human logic falls out of entropy, cause and effect, “If/Then” descriptors. This is therefore a re-statement of the anthropic principle.

        • Brian Scott

          You are reifying. You are taking a conclusion of a past event based on a methodology and asserting it as a thing in and of itself independent of such events.

    • Deven Kale

       Also, your assertion that intelligent thought be logically coherent and rational is false. It’s logical thought which requires those things, but thought alone by someone with intelligence need not be. As for whether or not we can account for logical thought, I assure you that your are quite wrong there, because it’s quite easily explained from an evolutionary standpoint (I would also make a bet that you don’t believe evolution correct, specifically because it makes your argument invalid).

      Unfortunately there’s no reason to explain to you how it works, because you’re so entrenched in your own dogma that you wouldn’t admit it even if you did think it made sense.

    • jose

      If you’re going to get to that, aren’t religious beliefs relative to the god each religion worships?

  • Randy Gritter

    Some Christians teach this. It is not what Catholicism teaches. Catholicism says faith and reason are 100% in harmony. If they are not then you have done one of them wrong. In fact, faith and reason can purify each other. When you accept one and embrace the other you are likely to end up in error. What is worse is you are going to be sure you are right when you are wrong. This is why atheists and fundamentalists are always sure they are right.

    • Coyotenose

       Catholicism does teach that. That’s because Catholicism doesn’t grasp what those terms means. Faith in a supernatural sense means acceptance of something despite evidence.

      The atheists you find here and in just about all forums and other places of dialogue are always open to new information that will change their worldview. Religion has had millions and millions of chances to produce that information. The universe itself refutes the religions of the world. The odds of one being correct are so small that we can, with absolutely no ego, assume that they are wrong and proceed from there.

      You certainly are sure that you are right in believing that leprechauns are made up. By your own logic, you’re “doing it wrong”. You clearly need to have more faith.

      • Randy Gritter

        Faith is not despite evidence. Faith is a choice to trust Someone. You base that choice on evidence. I choose to believe the bible and not the Koran based on evidence. Once I am convinced it is the Word of God then I will use that fact as one of the axioms in my reasoning. You don’t stop reasoning.

        • Coyotenose

           There’s no evidence that it is the “Word of God” except that it claims to be. I can do that much, and more convincingly than the Bible can, since there’s no long history of my words being rewritten or of them contradicting known scientific evidence.

          • Randy Gritter

            No evidence? Really? None at all? Just the fact that I think it is the word of God would count as some evidence.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Claims =/= evidence in the slightest.

              But just to humor you, sure. Your claim is just as credible as my claim that our universe is run by a herd of unicorns.

            • RobMcCune

               I believe the Bible because it’s the word of God. I believe the Bible is the word of God because it says so in the Bible. My reasoning forms a perfect, impenetrable circle.

              CHECKMATE ATHEISTS!!!

        • Willy Occam

          “I choose to believe the bible and not the Koran based on evidence.”

          Wow.  I have no idea how you define “evidence,” but it certainly must be a loose interpretation of the word.

          • Randy Gritter

            Simple, evidence is anything that makes the truth of something more or less believable.  If somebody tells me it is raining that is evidence. If I go outside and see that is stronger evidence that what they said is either right or wrong.

            • Deven Kale

               ”If somebody tells me it is raining that is evidence.”

              Ummm, no. Really? No.

              If somebody tells you it’s raining outside, that’s a claim. You then go looking for evidence to verify that claim, by checking the weather on the TV, online, on your own personal weather station, or by looking outside. Evidence is something which furnishes objective proof for a claim. No claim in itself is evidence (except in a court of law and social science, but we’re talking physical science).

              I’m amazed you would say something like that with a straight face. I really hope you’re joking. I really do, for your own sanity.

            • Willy Occam

               ”If somebody tells me it is raining that is evidence.”

              Thank you for proving my earlier claim, that your interpretation of the word “evidence” is loose (and that’s an understatement). 

          • luke smith

             What evidence is that? Many events in the bible that are historical are recorded incorrectly or in a confusing way (the gospels can’t agree on when Jesus was born). Geographical features are cited that don’t exist (Nazareth was not on the brow of a hill). The Rabbis would never ever have met on passover eve (it would have made them blasphemers).  None of the events at the crucifixion (earthquake, the dead rising etc…) are recorded by anyone else (this is the r0mans we’re dealing with, they wrote everything down). All we have on Jesus is he was born and he died. That’s it. 

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

          Oh, so Muslims believe on blind faith, but you believe on evidence? It has nothing to do with how you were raised or where you were born? You don’t find it strange that religion correlates much more with geography than with intelligence or personality?
          When were you convinced of the word of God? Did you think about it for a long time and weigh the evidence of all the different religions in existence or did your parents teach you that it was true from a young age?

          • Randy Gritter

            Your parents teaching you something is evidence. That should not be where your investigation stops but it is fine if it starts there. Yes, that means faith follows families and cultures. Does that makes them false?

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              Your parents teaching you something is a claim that needs to be backed up by evidence. Hearing someone make a claim is not evidence. You can choose to believe the claim if you want (like you can believe it’s raining when someone tells you) and you’ll generally believe claims without evidence if it comes from people you trust. But it is not evidence at all. You could never prove that it was raining based on a claim. You would have to go outside and see, or feel it, hear it, smell it, or see people coming inside with umbrellas or wet hair.
              Now, the reason we tend to trust people even though their claims are not evidence is because 1) many times we have no reason not to trust them 2) people may include their own evidence and experience with their claim and 3) if many people are making the same claim, it seems like there might be more to it.

              If we look at history, there are plenty of people who took the time to write down current events and the experiences of their own lives. We’re more likely to believe the claims if they were written at the same times of the events taking place, if more than one story matches up with it, if we can find archaeological evidence, etc. We are less likely to believe it if it describes things that do not seem plausible, if only one person wrote about it, or if it contradicts with other things written at the time.

              Now in the case of the gospels, you’ve got four books about the same person…written 30 to 70 years afterwards. They’ve got contradictions, they describe events that don’t seem possible, they contradict other historical records, and historians of the same time did not write about these extraordinary events that were taking place.
              Today, your reasons for believing are trusting your parents who would never knowingly lie to you and trusting that since there are 2 billion people who believe similarly, there’s got to be something to it. But what are these 2 billion people basing it off of? The same unreliable gospels that I described earlier.
              And the funniest part about all this is that that’s exactly the same reason people follow Islam. They were taught from a young age by their parents whom they trust and everyone else they know believes it too, so that’s definitely evidence.

              • Blacksheep

                In the end you have to look at everything and follow your heart and pursue what gives you peace.

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  Tried that for 18 years. No thanks. Besides, I’m sure Buddhism is incredibly peaceful, but you know that that by itself doesn’t make it true. Why believe something that’s not true just because it feels nice to believe it?

                • Blacksheep

                  I get it. But I’m really not saying “feels nice” like you’re pretending or trying to force yourself to believe something. I really do mean if it truly gives you happiness, peace, and helps you be the kind of person that feels right for you to be. If you didn’t have that experience, I totally get your journey.

            • C Peterson

              Your parents teaching you something is definitely NOT evidence, unless they provide evidence as part of that teaching. Simply stating something as a truth does not constitute evidence of any kind.

              The fact that the ideas that require faith follow families and cultures IS evidence (although not proof) that they are wrong. Ideas that contain truth are found across all cultures, because they do not depend on culture.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

      Pick something important you believe/think now that you could easily be wrong about.
      (“Important” is the key word because anyone could easily say something like “I think it will rain today.”)
      I can’t do it now. I couldn’t do it when I was a Christian. I probably never will be able to except right at a moment when by beliefs are changing. The point is, you don’t believe something if there’s a good chance you could be wrong. No one does. They believe it because they are sure they’re right. It’s pretty childish to pretend that people of other beliefs are way too stubborn about their beliefs, but *you* have it right and *you* are totally willing to admit you’re wrong at any time.

      That illusion is created because people hate to admit they’re wrong. You can prove someone wrong in a conversation, but they’ll never admit it in front of you. They’ll change their views slowly over time if they’re willing to change. So you get the impression that people who disagree with you (aka people of other religions) are always sure they’re right. Meanwhile, you know it’s good to change your opinions in the face of evidence and you say that’s what you do. It’s just convenient that everything you believe right now is right, so you’ll never have to do that :)

      • Randy Gritter

        I am not sure how this is different between atheists and Christians. You think other people are wrong. In fact, I typically think they are closer to the truth than you do. The truth is somewhere. Contradictory claims cannot both be right. So we all need to assert a lot of mistakes have been made.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

           I’m just trying to point out that it’s a problem with humans in general to believe they are completely correct when obviously a lot of them have got to be wrong.
          It just seems incredibly arrogant of you to claim that it’s a problem unique to atheists and fundamentalists to always believe that they are right when basically everyone in the world always believes they are right, otherwise they would change their minds and *then* believe they are right.
          I dated a Catholic and had mostly Catholic friends. They most certainly believed that they were right, just like I believed I was right at the time.
          I just love how you state a philosophy that you believe is definitely right and then you say that not believing in that philosophy leads people to think that they’re always right about things.

          • Randy Gritter

            Everyone believes they are right. But some are more arrogant about it. In my experience fundamentalists and atheists show more bravado. They spend a lot of time gloating at how strong their position is and very little actually convincing me it is strong. I think they are compensating for something. Their positions are philosophically weaker.

            • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

              In my experience, people tend to be more certain about their beliefs if they ever had to drastically change their beliefs. My sister converted to Orthodox Christianity and she’s obnoxiously certain that this time she’s 100% correct. I think there’s a lot of atheists like that because most atheists were raised religiously. Atheism took lots of time and thought and the knowledge that it could strain relationships with family and friends. You don’t have to be sure about a religion you grew up with because no one ever had to convince you. You were a kid and you can make kids believe anything. But when you change your belief system, it requires proof that what you currently believe can’t be correct and convincing that the new belief is definitely more plausible. That’s why a lot of us are very opinionated about it.
              On the other hand, atheism is not a religion and is therefore more open-ended. We believe in the universe as it is. We believe in anything that can be proven with evidence (not baseless claims). We simply do not believe in gods or the supernatural because they have never been proven.

              I don’t care about convincing you or converting you to atheism. You do remember that you’re the one who came *here,* right? You’re the Christian on the atheist blog. I’ll just argue with someone when I think their position is incorrect.
              What exactly is our philosophy? I don’t subscribe to any. If people here do, I doubt they all believe in the same one. I find philosophy to be just as pointless as religion. You can talk about it all you want, but you’ll never be able to prove it one way or another.

              • Blacksheep

                Can you prove that it’s better not to take advantage of the weak to benefit the strong? It should be OK to do so, since that’s one of the basis points for evolution. But we have determined that it’s not right. Can you prove that it’s not right? 
                I can’t, but I know in my heart that it’s wrong. In fact I’m 100% positive that it’s intrinsically wrong to take advantage of a weaker person to benefit a stronger person. 

                You speak of “proof” as a sacred thing, and it’s valuable. But there is knowing without proof.

                • C Peterson

                  Being 100% sure of anything is powerful evidence of irrational thinking.

                  I don’t think there’s anything “naturally” wrong with the strong taking advantage of the weak. You don’t understand evolution if you think this follows from it. Clearly it does not- different organisms have evolved different strategies.

                  Morality is a human invention, and what is right or wrong is a matter of societal consensus, not anything found in nature- not least because “right” and “wrong” are human inventions as well.

                • Blacksheep

                  I agree with your first statement 100%!

                • Willy Occam

                  Nature doesn’t give a shit whether or not you think something is right.  Ever see a nature documentary where a pack of lions attacks a baby elephant?  That doesn’t seem very fair, does it?  And yet that’s how the species survives—the cold reality of the “circle of life” and all.  Just because humans have the ability for compassion and empathy doesn’t mean the Laws of Nature have to play along. 

                • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_6OE7LEYELE4MZTVXGZUSVTBFUI julie

                  There is nothing sacred about proof, it’s just pointless to believe in extraordinary claims without it.

                  Since the majority of people are not particularly powerful, the majority of people understand what it’s like to be taken advantage of and they don’t like it, so we say it’s bad. That’s all the proof we need. The proof that it’s wrong to hit someone is that it’s painful to be hit. If you don’t want to get hit, you’ll avoid that best by not hitting others.
                  Right and wrong are just words that we come up with to describe the positive or negative feelings you are giving others.
                  So yes, it is definitely wrong to take advantage of someone weaker because you are definitely causing them negative feelings. And we function best as a society and therefore as a species if we don’t all hate each other. Simple as that.

        • C Peterson

          Christians are rarely prepared to change their views in the light of evidence. Atheists almost always are. That makes them vastly different.

          • Randy Gritter

            Really? I have not experienced this at

            • C Peterson

              You regularly encounter Christians who readily agree to ignore large sections of the Bible when presented with evidence that they are false? You regularly encounter atheists who claim that they would continue to believe there are not gods even if evidence to the contrary presented itself?

              You are surrounded by very different people than I am!

              • Blacksheep

                Which large sections of the Bible have evidence against them proving that they are false?

                • C Peterson

                  Virtually everything that attempts to explain nature: how the Universe was created, how long it took, the order in which things came into existence. The story of a worldwide flood. The story of the Sun standing still. The ages that people sometimes attained. Miracles.

                  Every one of these things lacks any evidence in its support, and is massively contradicted by well understood physical laws. Anybody who accepts as true any of these things is either an idiot, is massively ignorant, or is intellectually dishonest.

  • Blacksheep

    Einstein, Da Vinci, Newton, Kepler, Pascal, Carver, (and on and on) all believed in a God. It’s ridiculous to say you have to choose one. God-given intellect has produced most of the major scientific breakthroughs that we know of! (Even Hawking started out that way…)

    And whether their faiths were cultural makes little difference – the fact remains that to them, their work was enhanced, empowered, and enlightened by God.

    • RobMcCune

       Your equating belief in God with some sort of religious fervor. Not every scientist viewed their work in the same religious context of Issac Newton, and to ascribe those views to every scientist who was theist (voluntarily or no) is to mangle the history of science.

      • Blacksheep

        The point is a simple one: Some of the greatest scientific mids in history believed in a God while they were doing some of the greatest science in history. 

        • C Peterson

          But the point has nothing to do with the topic of this post, which is intellectual integrity. A person can do brilliant work and still be intellectually dishonest.

    • C Peterson

      Einstein didn’t. And it is important to keep in mind that it was somewhat rational to believe in a god (if not in any particular religion) before science advanced our knowledge to the point where it became absolutely clear that not only was no god necessary to explain the Universe, but that better explanations existed. Such knowledge really blossomed in the 19th century.

      • Don Gwinn

        That’s an excellent point.  If you dropped Newton into 2012 and let him spend the next year or two in London’s public library with an iPad, would he come out of that believing in Gawd Almighty?

        Hard to say, but I think it’s unlikely.  If Newton knew what we know now, I don’t see how that belief would have survived.  But then again, there’s evidence that Newton’s irrational beliefs may have been linked to high-functioning autism or something similar.

      • Blacksheep

        yes, I mentioned that. I said that it may have been cultural. My point was not that “They were scientists, therefore they had faith in God” my point was rather that even though they had faith that there was a God, they were brilliant scientists without having to “choose one”. That’s what this story is about…

        • C Peterson

          And there are modern scientists who believe in gods, as well. But they are not intellectually honest, or they would not be theists. Theism can only exist in two ways: the theist is intellectually incapable of rational analysis, or the theist is unwilling to apply rational analysis. The former is unlikely to apply to brilliant scientists, so that just leaves the latter- a lack of intellectual integrity.

          • Blacksheep

            I, and many other Christians, wholeheartedly disagree! We are intellectually honest, and still believe in God.

            • C Peterson

              Then you are intellectually incapable. Belief in a deity is fundamentally inconsistent with rational thought.

              • Blacksheep

                Rational by whose definition? We live on a ball of rock and water hurtling through space, our bodies are made of elements that science teaches was forged in stars, everything we know physically is made of sub atomic particles that at their most reduced structure may be nothing more than vibrations. That a God created it is no more or less rational than that. Scientists have no idea how the universe came into being, and even Krauss’s “A Universe from Nothing” does not explain how particles can “pop” into existence when there is no “space” for them to come alive in. (among other problems). 

                For me, the most rational response is that from the POV of science, we can’t know for sure whether God exists or not. 

                (Note that I said “for me” … maybe not for you.)

                • C Peterson

                  That a god created the Universe is entirely irrational. Because the one issue that never goes away is that the god itself required creation. And creating a god from nothing is infinitely more complex and unlikely than creating the Universe from nothing.

                  I say it is irrational to believe in a god on pragmatic grounds, as well. No rational argument has ever been offered in a debate or discussion for the existence of a deity; no shred of actual evidence has ever held up to scrutiny.

                • Blacksheep

                  We experience the world differently CP - 

      • Blacksheep

        I think Einstein did, depends upon how one defines God I guess. I do like this quote from Einstein:

        The most beautiful and most profound experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their primitive forms – this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.

        • C Peterson

          It is clear from Einstein’s writings that he didn’t recognize any sort of supernatural or intelligent god. When he spoke of the concept, it was as an embodiment of the laws of nature. Many scientists speak that way- it doesn’t make them theists. To stretch the definition of god to the laws of nature essentially makes the word useless.

          • Blacksheep

            I think you’re right – I went back and read some more of his writings.

        • RobMcCune

          Einstein said he believed in “Spinoza’s God” which is the substance that makes up reality and everything in it. It doesn’t have a mind or will, and events that happen are merely the result of nature. It’s as far from a conception of a deity as you can get.

    • Don Gwinn

      Naming a list of smart people who believed in God (I see at least one non-believer on your list, but it really doesn’t matter because the others are still there) does not refute the point made in either the cartoon or the post above.  The point was not that smart people or great theorists or great scientists never believe in God.  

      The point was that everyone who keeps a strong belief has to have a way to stop their critical thinking from breaking that faith. The believers on your list didn’t escape that necessity, at least not the ones I know anything about.  Newton, for instance, was able to accept a lot of absurdities including numerology and some of the fancier flights of fancy in alchemy.  He was able to do that because he didn’t turn his exceptionally powerful rational process on those targets.  He was able to believe that Leibniz stole the idea of the calculus from him because he was able to convince himself of his own conspiracy theory that we, looking back with hindsight and without his deep, personal emotional involvement in the dispute, find totally unconvincing.

      That’s not because we are smarter than Newton (well, you may be, but I’m not) but because we are thinking rationally about the evidence and we have more of the evidence available than he had.  We are not defending our reputations or our cherished beliefs, and that makes all the difference.

      Extremely intelligent people with big blind spots of irrational beliefs are all too common.  There’s a strong argument to be made that every human being has irrational beliefs of one kind or another, although I don’t know how we could ever hope to prove it.  Religious beliefs are not different, even though I know they seem special to believers.  They’re only ideas, like any other ideas.

      • Blacksheep

        The point of the article was that one must “choose one” – I disagree, I think great science can happen within the sphere of faith, the people on the list are examples. I’m really not trying to prove whether or not they were irrational, just that faith and science can coexist.

        • Deven Kale

           The point of the article wasn’t that belief in gods is antithetical to doing good science. The point was that you can’t believe in gods while keeping your intellectual integrity. You must keep you god beliefs separate from your logical mind in order to keep them from conflicting, which is sacrificing your intellectual integrity. The fact that many great scientists have done exactly that doesn’t disprove the statement in the least.

    • ACN

      Are you deliberately overlooking the fact that until fairly recently, the “god game”, as it were, was literally the only game in town.

      Do you think it was OK to be an atheist in Newton’s day? You’re aware that to be a university professor, you were supposed to have to be an f’ing anglican priest. 

      • Blacksheep

        Fully aware. But most of these guys actually believed in God – and still did great science. I’m sure some were pretending, too.

        • Deven Kale

           It’s really easy to believe something when you don’t even know there’s an option not to.

          • Blacksheep

            Still not the point – they did great science while believing in soemthing that you say is irrational.

  • Blacksheep

    This makes sense to me:
    “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” - Wernher Von Braun

  • Blacksheep

    This makes sense to me:
    “I find it as difficult to understand a scientist who does not acknowledge the presence of a superior rationality behind the existence of the universe as it is to comprehend a theologian who would deny the advances of science.” - Wernher Von Braun

    • RobMcCune

      Really? Wernher Von Braun as an example of a religious scientist? Please tell me this is a Poe.

      • Blacksheep

        Where did I say he was a religious scientist? I said I liked his quote.

        • C Peterson

          It is a good quote, because it demonstrates that simply being an educated scientist is no guarantee of being able to think cogently… especially about philosophical matters.

          • Blacksheep

            You may be missing the point – he didn’t have to “Choose one” to do good science. 

            • C Peterson

              I didn’t miss the point.

    • Deven Kale

      Appeal to authority. Try again.

      • Blacksheep

        Yes, a higher authority.

        • Entertaining Doubts

          But we only have your authority, backed by the equally dubious authority of a mishmash book written by ancient goatherders and edited by politicians, to support the idea that there’s even a “higher authority” at all.

          Or what if the “higher authority” you picked to follow (grew up believing in, more likely) is the wrong one? What if Allah or Vishnu or Odin is the real deal, and Yahweh is the made-up one? How would you know for sure?

          • Blacksheep

            The Bible is no more mish mash to me than an archeological dig is to a scientist. Also, people believed in a “higher authority” long before The Bible was written. And to your point, I don’t know for sure – I entertain doubts every day. But based on everything I have seen, experienced, felt, and read, my personal conclusion is that God exists. And when I look at how God manifests as religion, Christianity is the one that makes the most sense to me. 

            (I may never know for sure. But If I believe in the wrong one I’ll be OK, since Christianity is the only one that claims it is the only way.) 

            • Entertaining Doubts

              “To me.” That’s fine, you can believe what you want. But when scientists say they agree on a provisional truth claim, it means they’ve observed actual real-world evidence that tallies with everything we’ve observed before in the real world. In contrast, Bible study and theology (fundamentalist and “moderate” alike) are no more than insider apologetic fan-fic wankery that presupposes the existence of a deity.

              God does not manifest as religion. The aspect of our evolved monkey brains that assumes every act has an intentional actor, along with the intellectual laziness of wanting easy concrete authoritarian answers for everything and desiring to be part of a like-minded group (also evolved traits) are what cause religion. But since we’ve also made some improvements in what we know about the world and how we think about living together as a society since the iron age, we’re not at the mercy of our genes or our traditions.

              Read Shermer’s “Why People Believe Weird Things” and/or Dennett’s “Breaking the Spell” and see where they take you. I freed myself from the religion I was raised in and once passionately embraced; you can too!

              Aaaaaand Pascal’s Wager. Bored now.

              • Blacksheep

                My closing comment was not pascals wager, it’s just a fact.

    • jose

       The thing is there is no reason to acknowledge that. That’s why the scientist doesn’t do it.

    • ACN

      “I aim for the stars, but sometimes I hit London”

      ~Wernher Von Braun

    • Brian Macker

      Just because he finds it difficult doesn’t mean the guy he is criticizing is as intellectually challenged as he is. I certainly don’t find it difficult to understand. Some people just aren’t good at certain things.

  • ruth

    The religious people I know have religious experiences.  That is, they have emotional states that reinforce what they have learned about a particular god.  Maybe they pray and that leads to a sense of dissociation which leads to a sense of oneness with god.  Or, maybe they meditate and the same thing happens.  Or they sing a hymn.  They feel good.   They feel connected. 

    The emotional component of belief is extremely important.  It also seems very difficult for people to express.   

    We all make decisions based on emotional reasons.  Falling in love with someone is not so different from falling in love with your religion.